Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas (83) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers free safety Dashon Goldson (38) during the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Free Agency: The NFC South - Tampa Bay signs Dashon Goldson

The doors to a lot of “new toys” for teams just blew open yesterday as the 2013 NFL free agent signing period began. Fans of the Carolina Panthers have long been expecting very little here and so far haven’t been disappointed.

THAT much is no shock. Coming into the 2013 NFL season with a brand new GM and a precariously-perched Head Coach and negative cap space, the team has had to restructure contracts just to stay under the $123 million team salary cap with room to add draftees and a lowball free agent or two:

New GM David Gettleman re-signed backup QB Derek Anderson, a free agent this year with Carolina last season, to backup Cam in case of catastrophe. He let the Cleveland Browns sign TE Gary Barnidge and nabbed veteran CB Drayton Florence, a pro who spent the first half of his career with the San Diego Chargers but went to the Detroit Lions last season as a rental.

Nov 18, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Drayton Florence (31) tackles Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Packers beat the Lions 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With the loss of Chris Gamble, Florence could possibly see some starting role temporarily, but he’s better suited as a 3rd or 4th corner at this point in his career. The Panthers are razor-thin at corner with second-year pro Josh Norman as the #1 corner and veteran Captain Munnerlyn as the other. However, Munnerlyn is limited by his 5’8″ height and Norman still is growing into his NFL corner position. Bringing a veteran like Florence in should help to stabilize the position as he can help the younger guys with the nuances of the position and of the game in general but the team is still in flux and will be until all FAs are either re-signed or released so keep a look out.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free safety Dashon Goldson from the San Francisco 49’ers today. Goldson joins rising second-year pro and strong safety Mark Barron from Alabama as the team finally replaces the team’s most aged defensive player, 37 year old safety Ronde Barber. Goldson is a very good safety with 2 Pro Bowls on his resume and will help rising second-year pro strong safety Mark Barron develop his full potential.

The Tampa Bay pass defense rated dead last in the NFL in most statistical categories in 2012.

Dec 18, 2011; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush (22) is upended from a tackle by Buffalo Bills cornerback Drayton Florence (29) during the second half at the Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers finished 7-9 in 2012 along with division rivals Carolina and New Orleans and the y may not be done yet. There’s a heavy buzz about that the Bucs really want to land Jets CB Darrelle Revis. Technically not a free agency move – it would have to be via some trade – on the outside looking in, it would be a wonderful fit for that team.

They had tried to build that defense “correctly” in that they drafted the linemen in consecutive years with early-round picks, added linebackers through free agency and the draft, added safety Barron in the first round last year, and now they’re having to finish upgrading the secondary due to poor performance at corner and age at safety.

Adding Revis would give them the league’s best true “shutdown” corner, such as one can exist at all under today’s rules, and would allow coaches to call man coverage (Revis Island, anyone?) while blitzing one of their very young, fast outside linebackers. It’s a situation to keep your eye on for sure since the Jets need bodies and the Bucs need a corner. Such a move would benefit both teams and could get done anytime now.

The other player they’ve signed this year is OLB Jonathan Casillas, a reserve from New Orleans.

The New Orleans Saints have been very quiet (sssh! They’re hunting WABBITS! A-ha-ha-ha-ha) so far in free agency. They’ve got some cap room issues of their own and so far have made no moves in free agency to speak of; however, they did lose OT Jermon Bushrod to the Chicago Bears in addition to the Casillas loss to their division rival.

Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons fans display a sign for tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) after their defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers defeated the Falcons 28-24. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons took a swipe at Tony Gonzalez and managed to get him back in their talons for at least one more season, talking him out of retirement. If anyone in the NFL can perform at a high level at his advanced football age, it’s Tony Gonzalez. He’s one of those health-guru guys that watches every single thing he eats or drinks and nary a molecule goes into his stomach that he hasn’t done research on. He’d seriously make a great health, fitness, and nutrition instructor after football if he wanted to.

In over 15 NFL seasons, Gonzalez gathered his very first playoff win of his career last season. After having had a little time to relax and reflect, his return tells me he feels strongly that they are poised to make a Super Bowl run in 2013.

Gonzalez has bags ‘o Pro Bowls and WILL BE a first-ballot unanimous Hall of Fame inductee 5 years after he plays his last snap…whenever that is. He has nothing, zilch, zero to prove to ANYONE at this stage. Yeah, he’s on a divisional foe but I don’t care…I’ve always REALLY liked the guy on a lot of levels.

If someone twisted my arm and had me spit out a name of one guy who is a perfect football player, I’d say Tony Gonzalez. He’s never a distraction. He’s a GREAT locker room presence, influence, and example for the younger players to emulate. Then there’s his production….

In 16 complete NFL seasons, 12 with the Chiefs and 4 with the Falcons, he has 1,242 rec 14,264 yds and 73 TDs. He’s had FOUR 1,000-yd receiving seasons – unheard of for a TE and all with the Chiefs – 5 OTHER seasons with 900+ yards, and has missed a single football game over his ENTIRE NFL career.

WOW!

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